Conveying emotions in writing is particularly tricky but also an essential skill if you want to write. The basic rule of thumb should be that you do not declare the emotion of an action or a line of dialogue, because doing it explicitly is not elegant, and the clear mark of the amateur.
“Two sugars and no milk,” she said angrily.
… in other words, is not the best we can do as we write a scene in which an afternoon tea turns into a duel with cake knives.
We need to find a way around it.
This is not, of course, an unbreakable commandment – but as usual when writing, we need to keep an eye out and try to suggest tone and mood tot he readers without telling them.
This is the notorious show-don’t-tell rule, that’s generally abused by first-timers.
I am always surprised when some of my esteemed readers perceive anger in what I write on this blog – I am not by nature an angry person, and I do not yield to anger easily.
An yet, as I sometimes I express my disappointment at the current state of affairs of the community of which I am supposedly part, some readers still perceive what I write as if it came in the form of a sneer, a growl, an angry ejaculation.
Of course, casting an argument we do not agree with as the product of anger is a nice way to cast it in a negative light – anger is not rational, anger is bad and leads to the Dark Side, as Yoda explained to us. Anger is not conductive to intelligent discourse, it’s unintelligent and animalistic.
You can’t reason with angry people, they are the epitome of unreasonable.
They are the bad guys, they have no reasons to make.
A mob of angry protesters is very different from a group of vocally concerned citizens, or at least we perceive them as different.
We’ll listen to the requests of the latter, we’ll send policemen in riot gear against the former.
Language allows such little tricks, and we all use them from time to time.
When it comes to the victorious nerds whose masterful activities are causing such an unchecked and unprecedented wonder to spread across the globe, making the future so bright we’ll have to wear mirror-shades, I do tend to be ironic and dismissive.
Am I angry at them?
Concerned, that’s what I am. Baffled, most certainly. Sometimes irritated.
Most of all terribly disappointed. And pessimistic.
But angry? No, I am not.
So what I would ask my esteemed readers, should I happen to express some idea they do not happen to share, is please to not consider me angry simply because I hold a different opinion.
I’ll reciprocate by not considering them likewise.
3 November 2019 at 19:12
At times it seems to me that what is (increasingly) lacking is an ability to both perceive and articulate nuances. After all “anger” is a good deal easier to process than, say, “puzzled irritation” or “annoyed puzzlement” or “a touch of sarcasm” or “resigned disgust”… The poorer the language of the reader, the thinner the ability to distinguish what is going on in text and subtext beyond the basic, perhaps?
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3 November 2019 at 21:10
It is a fact that there seems to be an ongoing simplification/impoverishment of the emotional palette where discussion is concerned.
Communication seems to be a lot more primitive than it used to be. And maybe it’s also seductively easier to handle.
So yes, an impoverished language is probably part of the problem.
4 November 2019 at 15:32
“A mob of angry protesters is very different from a group of vocally concerned citizens, or at least we perceive them as different.
We’ll listen to the requests of the latter, we’ll send policemen in riot gear against the former” Sooo true.
4 November 2019 at 16:37
Words are powerful.